It would be tough to criticize the LSU offense after last week. Yes, the receivers dropped some balls, but that was really it. Zach Mettenberger was sharp. He was not sacked. LSU ran for 242 yards, and the game was never in doubt. Washington’s defense is not good, but neither is Idaho’s. With SEC play around the corner, the offense needs to stay in sync. This week will be a chance to see some young faces, but the old ones need to stay sharp.
LSU Offensive Line vs. Idaho Defensive Line
The question entering last week was at left tackle. Josh Dworaczyk played every significant snap there, and he played it well. As I mentioned, Mettenberger didn’t go down, and the Tigers ran at will. Dworaczyk sealed the edge on Alfred Blue’s first touchdown. He looks like he may be okay out there. The other four guys up front looks great, too. That includes right tackle Alex Hurst who was markedly improved from Week 1. Center P.J. Lonergan was a little dinged up, but he’s practiced all week and should play. Josh Williford leads the team in knockdowns after two weeks at right guard, and La’El Collins gets better every week on the left side. He went down, but it was just a cramp. Some of the youth should get a shot this week. Elliot Porter played a little bit in Lonergan’s stead last week. He was serviceable. Still improving. Trai Turner played when Collins went down, and he was great. He fired off the ball and really moved some people around. I think he’s got a great future. Vadal Alexander will certainly get some late playing time. He needs to come along because he’s one injury from being in there.
Idaho runs a 4-3 defense, and the defensive line is fairly productive. Benson Mayowa is a senior returning starter at defensive end. He’s got nice size at 6-feet-3-inches and 250 lbs. He has a tackle and a half for loss and sack this year. Quayshawne Buckley is a junior nose guard who has done a nice job clogging the middle this year. He’s 284 lbs and has gotten into the backfield for a tackle and a half for a loss and a sack. That’s solid production for a nose guard. Maxx Forde can really get up the field on the other end. He’s got eight tackles, a pair of sacks and weighs in a 6-feet-5-inches and 260 lbs. He’s also registered a pair of hurries and batted a pass away.
Based on size and production, this Idaho defensive line is pretty good. This LSU offensive line is great. The Tigers will run the ball at will and protect the passer well. Perhaps adrenaline and size allows Idaho to get some early stops, but that will wear off. Expect the young guys to get in there to get a little more seasoned. Keep an eye on Lonergan’s health. The Tigers have to have him. Again, I like this Idaho defensive line, but it’s still Idaho.
LSU Running Backs vs. Idaho Linebackers
Alfred Blue has asserted himself as the go-to back. He’s been marvelous thus far averaging 112 yards per game. Kenny Hilliard is gobbling up touchdowns. Michael Ford is slashing through holes and getting the edge. And we saw Spencer Ware last week. You knew he was going to run against a tired defense, and you saw how that went. I've seen less violent collisions between two trains. This is as finely tuned a machine as I’ve seen at the collegiate level. Every back has a role. Every back embraces the role. Oh, and J.C. Copeland is going to get arrested during a game if he continues to assault second level defenders like this.
Idaho sports a pretty solid strong side linebacker in senior Conrad Scheidt. He’s been playing since he arrived at Idaho, and he finished third on the team with 93 tackles last season. He’s 6-feet-1-inch and 230 lbs., and he’s a good tackler. This season, he's notched 2.5 tackles for loss and has 16 total tackles, good for second on the team. The other two linebackers are seniors, but they are first year starters. Homer Magua mans the middle. He’s got nine stops on the season. Su’a Tuala plays the weak side, and he’s got 14 tackles to his name. This is a veteran corps that has produced relative to the rest of the defense. Don’t expect them to be too intimidated by the atmosphere.
Intimidated or not, LSU is going to run the ball all night long. The fresh legs are going to keep rolling, and that spells trouble for these Vandals. Les Miles has been known to lighten the workload on his No. 1 in these types of games. Ware virtually sat in the Northwestern St. and Kentucky games last year. Blue may get that treatment Saturday. Eight carries and out. In any event, all of these guys are more than capable of gashing this Vandals defense that allowed 126 yards per game against Eastern Washington and Bowling Green. Tick clock, tick.
LSU Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers vs. Idaho Secondary
Zach Mettenberger was far more comfortable in Week 2, and it showed. He should have finished about 16 for 18 for 230 yards and 2 scores. Quarterback play like that makes LSU a pretty tough out. The more snaps he gets, the better. That’s all this week is about. Keep him upright, and let him throw it. Speaking of “let him throw it”, let’s see some Stephen Rivers. The Tiger backup has not thrown a pass, statistically. This may be that week. The Tiger receiving corps has really shown some balance through two weeks. Jarvis Landry (9), James Wright (7), Odell Beckham (5), and Kadron Boone (3, 2 TDs) have all gotten the ball thrown their way. Russell Shepard only has one catch, but he’s got a couple of drops and had a touchdown called back in Week 1. These guys are all threats in the short, intermediate and deep routes. That makes LSU unpredictable. The tight ends have not been featured at all. Chase Clement has just one catch.
Teams are throwing relatively easily on the Idaho secondary. Gary Walker is the leader back there. He a senior safety who leads the team in tackles with 17. Trey Williams is a big junior safety who has an impressive 11 solo tackles thus far. Aaron Grymes is the best corner on the roster. He’s a 5-feet-11-inch, 176 lb. senior with good speed. I don’t think these guys will have a ton of work to do. They certainly have some improving to do.
Don’t expect a ton of throws from Mettenberger. He’s gotten his feet wet, and he needs to be healthy. I think Mettenberger throws it around little in the first and second quarters before giving way to Rivers once the lead gets to about 30. I really think Rivers needs to play some this week. The kid simply needs to throw the ball a little bit. Look for Beckham to really rebound from a rough week. He took it hard, and that’s evidenced on Twitter. Idaho isn’t very good in the secondary, so expect the Tiger completion percentage to be good again. There just won’t be many throws.
This is a run the clock out situation. That’s what Les Miles will do. I don’t expect a fired up group by any stretch. It’s predictable between Washington and Auburn. Mettenberger will be good early. The running backs will maul this team, and Rivers will throw his first few passes. Look for Elliot Porter and Vadal Alexander to get in there up front, and expect Blue to receive a lighter work load. The Tigers could name their score, but it won’t get too bad. Not enough intensity.
Prediction: LSU 45, Idaho 0